Niners need to step up run game vs. Seahawks

The template has been set for how to defend the 49ers. The Niners know that, and they expect to see more of the same Sunday when they play the Seattle Seahawks at Candlestick Park.

In their season opener, the 49ers faced few surprises against the Arizona Cardinals. After all, when offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye stated he envisions a 49ers offense that consists of 60 percent run plays, the team had to know the focus of opposing defenses would be running back Frank Gore.

The Cardinals held Gore to 30 yards on 22 carries – the fewest yards of his career when getting the ball at least 15 times. The 49ers head into their Week 2 game against the Seahawks ranked last in the league in rushing.

Arizona stacked the line of scrimmage and shot linebackers at the gaps with run blitzes. As a team, the 49ers gained 21 yards rushing, which was the lowest output in team history in a winning performance. After one game, the 49ers rank 32nd in the NFL in rushing.

"We have to prepare for that and expect that," 49ers guard David Baas said. "Until we step up and slam it in the face, we can expect that in every single game."

Said 49ers quarterback Shaun Hill, "I'm sure there will be some copycats."

The 49ers were slow to make adjustments against the Cardinals, as Raye continued to stick with the run game. It wasn't until the fourth quarter that the 49ers went with the pass.

In a 15-play drive that covered 80 yards for a touchdown, Hill attempted 13 passes, completing nine for 72 yards.

"I think in talking to Raye, there were some things that he would do a little differently in this game and I think hindsight is always 20/20," 49ers coach Mike Singletary said. "It's the first live game, bullets are flying. Coach Raye has to get a feel for what this offense really can do. We know we can run the ball, it's just a matter of executing it."

Hill said he was not frustrated that the 49ers continued to call run plays even though they were not working.

"Obviously, there are things we need to improve on," Hill said. "But the main thing is that we left Arizona with a 1-0 record."

Singletary said there were no excuses for how the offense played in the first game of the season. The offensive line should be able to handle anything the defense throws at it, he said.

"We got our tails kicked up front, it's as simple as that," Singletary said. "We did not play well and we got our tails kicked, I will say that, but we will get better."

Singletary did not back off his belief from training camp that the club's offensive line will not merely be serviceable this season - but that it will emerge into one of the strengths of the team.

"Our offensive line, at some point in time this year, will be one of the better offensive lines in the league," Singletary said. "But this game, they did not play well."

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Singletary, in his first game as 49ers coach last October after taking over for fired Mike Nolan, did not appreciate how tight end Vernon Davis responded to Singletary's sideline authority. Davis was called for unnecessary roughness against the Seattle Seahawks and Singletary had some words for him on the sideline.

But when Davis reacted nonchalantly to Singletary's scolding, he was sent to the locker room for the remainder of the fourth quarter.

When the 49ers play the Seahawks again on Sunday at Candlestick Park, Davis will be wearing a "C" on his uniform as one of the team's six captains.

Davis said he knows the Seahawks will try to provoke him again, but he promises he will not step out of line this time.

"I'm sure they're going to try to do something to get me fired up and get me go back to locker room," Davis said. "But it ain't happening. I plan on playing with discipline. They will not get to me. There's nothing they can do to get me fired up."

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he 49ers have steadily improved in converting third downs on offense since Singletary took over the team midway through the 2008 season. During the 2009 preseason, the 49ers finished tied for second in the NFL with a 48.1 percent third-down conversion rate.

Even though the team finished 22nd in the league in third-down conversion percentage last year, the 49ers rank 10th in the NFL over the team's last 10 games.

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The 49ers defense have been extremely stingy against the run under defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, allowing a mere 3.75 yards per carry to rank 5th in the NFL since 2007. Just as impressive is that the unit has gone up against the seventh-most carries (973) in the league during that span.

Last week against the Cardinals, the 49ers limited Arizona to just 40 rushing yards on 17 carries (2.4 avg.).

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In the season-opener against the Cardinals, the 49ers defense provided pressure on quarterback Kurt Warner throughout the day, resulting in three sacks, two interceptions and 22 quarterback hits.

Linebacker Parys Haralson, and defensive ends Ray McDonald and Justin Smith each recorded a sack, while the secondary limited Arizona's big-play receivers, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, to just eight catches for 90 yards.

"It all goes hand-in-hand," Haralson said. "When the defense is covering it up like they did (Sunday), it gives us time to get to the quarterback."

Added Smith, "We know with the guys we have up front, we're able to get pretty consistent pressure on the quarterback. We just have to keep building on it ... The window is so small, as far as the guys (around you), that you have to take advantage of it. It's just a very unselfish defense. Everybody plays their role and does their deal and complements each other pretty well."

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In a recent study done by the Wall Street Journal, a symmetrical face is a trait that has a strong correlation to a person's perceived attractiveness.

The average person's face is somewhere around 90 percent symmetrical, but for a starting quarterback in the NFL, it is about 96 percent symmetrical.

Starting QB Shaun Hill ranks seventh in the NFL with a 99.35 percent symmetrical face.

"It isn't someone's opinion," Hill quipped. "It's scientific proof that I'm handsome. So it's really a great deal. So when (QB) Alex (Smith) or (OT) Joe Staley tries to put me down to make themselves feel better, I have scientific evidence to throw back at them."

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Niners team president Jed York said he wants to meet with unsigned draft pick Michael Crabtree and his agent, Eugene Parker, in person to try to resolve the contract dispute.

"We want the kid to be here," York told San Francisco radio station KNBR. "And I'd love to have a chance to sit down and talk with him and his agent face to face. It's one thing to have an agent say, 'This is what I want' and 'This is what he believes,' but so that it doesn't get personal and so there's no miscommunication, I'd like to sit down with Michael and with (general manager) Scot (McCloughan) and (chief negotiator) Paraag (Marathe) and Eugene."

The 49ers have talked internally about reducing the $16 million offer of guaranteed money by approximately $200,000 for every game Crabtree is not available during the contract impasse.


--- OT Tony Pashos, whom the 49ers signed last week, is likely to get more practice time as the 49ers look for improved play from right tackle. "We want to get a chance to look at Pashos as well, see what he can do," 49ers coach Mike Singletary.

--- TE Vernon Davis is expected to make a positive impact on the 49ers this season - on and off the field. Davis caught a team-high five passes in the season opener against the Cardinals, and coach Mike Singletary named him as a team captain.

--- RT Adam Snyder got off to a strong start in training camp before sustaining a knee sprain on Aug. 22. He missed a game, and has not performed at a high level upon his return. He was at least partly responsible for three sacks in the 49ers' opening-game victory against the Cardinals.

--- DE Justin Smith was listed on the injury report with an elbow injury, and he did not practice on Wednesday. However, Smith was in full pads. He received the day off as a "veteran courtesy." He will be in the starting lineup. After the 49ers' film review, Smith was credited with nine QB hits and 13 pressures in the season opener to go along with his one sack.

--- LB Parys Haralson had a big day rushing the passer in the opener. He had one sacks, six hits on the quarterback and six pressures.

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